Diversity & Inclusion

Embracing A Holistic Approach to DEI in 2024

The past three years have been an arduous journey for HR leaders to say the least, navigating the landscape of the pandemic, the loss of talent during the Great Resignation, and continued economic uncertainty. Amidst this, I’ve seen first-hand a significant shift emerging within the HR industry– a resounding rise in an employee-first mentality by creating a workplace that is meaningful and impactful to all with a particular focus on creating better outcomes related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.

When defining DEI in the workplace, business leaders often think of it simply as the diversity within the demographic makeup of their employee base. But that’s putting the cart well before the horse. In fact, I strongly believe that it’s the outcome HR leaders should hope to see with an effective DEI strategy. Instead, I anticipate smart HR leaders will hunker down this year and build a DEI strategy that permeates throughout the organization, fueling innovation as people with varied perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences come together to share fresh ideas, challenge the status quo, and speak to a broader audience. DEI must no longer remain a mere checkbox exercise, but instead be embedded into every aspect of the business at-large, both internally and externally.

Expanding How We Define DEI

Although important, I often see business leaders get stuck in the mentality that Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are the silver bullet to creating an inclusive culture at work. This is not to discount their purpose. These groups can be a vital source of support for people to feel they have a community within the organization based on a certain attribute including ability, parental status, ethnicity, age, sexuality, gender and gender identification, and more. It opens them up to be heard by each other and the leadership of the company to ensure their needs are being met and recognized.

With that being said, solely relying on ERGs for inclusivity limits the capabilities of a strong DEI strategy, and what I believe we’ll see more of in 2024 is the broadening of the scope of how DEI functions as a driver of overall business objectives. True inclusivity extends beyond office walls, necessitating products that cater to diverse audiences, developing marketing materials that celebrate diversity, and intentionally bringing together a group of employees from different backgrounds to discuss product strategies and roadmaps. This kind of collaboration is symbiotic–diverse inputs yield diverse outcomes.

Closing Diversity Gaps

To bridge diversity gaps, it’s crucial to craft personas representing diverse demographics for recruitment and understanding their unique needs. In 2024, HR leaders will need to take a hard look at why they’re struggling to retain a certain demographic and take the time to dig into the why.

Take for example a new birthing parent re-entering the workforce. With the record loss of working mothers from our workforce during the pandemic still in our recent memory, going forward it is detrimental to think differently about how to support their needs. This goes beyond simply offering a generous parental leave policy. There’s more that can be done to support them at every step of the parenting journey. What I often see is that when birthing parents go out on leave, it can be overwhelming when thinking about the workload they left behind while also balancing a new addition to the family.

To start, HR leaders have to consider their needs prior to leave by promoting structured exit plans to ensure their work is covered while they are away to smoothly transition into their parental leave. While they’re away, consider providing them with a new parent bonus or meal reimbursements to offset unforeseen circumstances. A little goes a long way. Welcome them back with a supportive reentry plan that considers their new reality and considers resources that go beyond “standard medical”, like breastfeeding support or access to new parent resources.

Then remember, parenthood does not stop at home. Employers should look at accommodating schedule flexibility and childcare support. As their child starts school, HR leaders can also consider syncing up your holiday calendar with the school calendar to make sure parents don’t have to panic on the days their child is home while they’re at work. This goal is to increase the longevity and success of the employee, which should be mutually beneficial to the employer.

Taking the example above and applying a similar approach to other opportunities in your workforce shows a commitment to DEI that fosters an inclusive, supportive environment that values an employee’s growth, development, and contributions to the company at every stage of life. Not just the stage they’re currently in.

Acknowledging DEI’s Long-Term Impact

In forging ahead, embracing DEI will no longer be a trending HR buzzword, but instead will be considered as a fundamental pillar that fuels overall business objectives. So as we step into 2024, let’s not just aim to meet diversity quotas. Instead, let’s be intentional with creating workplaces where DEI is seen, heard and felt throughout every touchpoint and every interaction with the organization. It is with this approach – or lack thereof – that will make or break DEI strategies in 2024 and beyond.

Wes Burke is the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Care.com, the largest online platform for finding and managing high-quality family care. Its enterprise division, Care for Business, offers a suite of employer-sponsored caregiving benefits that cover the care needs of working families. As CHRO, he oversees Care.com’s global human resources function, including people operations, workforce strategy, and culture and engagement.

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